Day three of the third test at the Circuit de Catalunya took place on Saturday, and a sunny day was forecast, with a top temperature of 15°C (59°F).
But we all know meteorologists can get it wrong from time to time, and sure enough, the dry running was ended mid-afternoon by rain and a bit of hail.
The game of musical seats continued, with Heikki Kovalainen and Bruno Senna the only men driving for a second day in a row. Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo had their first taste of the action this week.
In the world of real news, HRT have admitted defeat in their quest to get the F112 ready for the final day. In their three years of existence, the Spanish team has yet to complete a single lap of preseason testing. They and Marussia—who still haven't passed the final crash test—will be entering the first race weekend with cars that are totally untested on the track.
Back to Saturday's action. The quickest time of the day was supplied by Sauber's Sergio Perez, a 1:22.094, setting a new benchmark for the fastest time at the track this year. McLaren man Jenson Button was nine-thousandths of a second back.
|03||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:22.155||131|
|05||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:22.446||108|
|08||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:22.662||70|
As this was the last testing day for many drivers, some form of faster running was expected, and the teams didn't disappoint. Perez's time was set during a three-lap qualifying simulation on the Pirelli soft tyres. Button used either the soft or medium compound for his best.
After yesterday, it's not too surprising, but I have to mention him again. Heikki Kovalainen's time of 1.22.630 was very nearly three seconds quicker than his qualifying time last year, and though set on the super-softs, it's a very encouraging sign.
The top nine were separated by just nine-tenths of a second, and the overall speed was good. Everyone from Nico Rosberg up would have qualified in the top 10 for last season's race.
The odd man out, Kimi Raikkonen, spent much of the morning battling steering issues with the Lotus and didn't get round to doing any low-fuel stints. The Finn was limited to just 43 laps and can't have been pleased with his day.
Button's running was also disrupted, a hydraulic problem with the McLaren leaving him on a disappointing 44 laps.
Sunday—the 12th and final day of preseason testing—will see Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton return to the cockpit.
It's likely the ultimate pace of the top cars around the Barcelona track is under the 81-second mark, perhaps even closer to 1:20.500. Fancy taking up the challenge, Mr. Vettel?
The session will start, as usual, at 9am CET.